Jim Culloty: Bindaree needed one chance and the rest was history


Jim Culloty Bindaree


We spoke to former Grand National winning jockey Jim Culloty, about what makes the National the biggest race in the world. He also delved further into his infamous National victory in 2002 on 20/1 shot Bindaree.

The Grand National is the biggest race in the world

I think the Grand National is the biggest race in the world. It is a handicap though, so in terms of prestige, one could argue that the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Queen Mother Chase are above the National.

As a jockey riding a horse for the first time like I did on Bindaree in the 2002 Grand National, you just need to listen to what the trainer has to say. You’ll do your research and talk to the jockeys that have ridden the horse, but that is the case when riding in a novice hurdle on any old Monday!

Nowadays you can go back and watch all the replays but back in my day you couldn’t do that. It’s just key to glean every bit of information you can, but sometimes you are better off finding out for yourself. My instructions from Peter Scudamore that day was that Bindaree is a front runner and if you can’t get to the front, get there as soon as you can.

To be honest, I didn’t think I’d win when What’s Up Boys was a length clear after the last. From the two out to one out, I couldn’t really kick for home because this loose horse kept crossing in front of me and with two jumps to go you have to predict what that horse has to do – but that is hard as they can do anything.

I had to stay a safe distance away from him which meant I couldn’t really kick on, whereas Dicky [Richard] Johnson had a clear run on the outside and he kicked and, as it happens, that was too soon. It was a classic case of the elbow at the Grand National and he started to drift.

I think what happened was that the horse heard the crowd cheering and pricked his ears to have a look and that’s the chance that Bindaree needed to get his momentum going.

The rest was history. Having said that, it was certainly as much luck as it was judgement!

The first circuit of the Grand National is all about survival

Culloty then issued an insight into what goes through the mind of a jockey in such a long race as prestigious as the National. This year, only one horse fell at the first fence – joint favourite, Corach Rambler – though the fences have always been much-discussed.

You cannot rush a horse in the Grand National, you need to find your rhythm. You need to give the horse a chance to find their feet. You have to treat the first fence with caution and the first circuit itself is purely about survival.

The fences are smaller and the drops aren’t as steep the wider you go so you want to go from the middle to the outer to start with. If you’re on a good enough jumper you can then start to move in.

I’d definitely take the view that the first circuit is about survival – as we saw this year.

The National is a waiting game, patience is key for jockeys

According to Culloty, the jockeys that did well in the National were those with good strategy, who took their time and played to the strengths of their horse. I Am Maximus’ late charge was just that.

It’s important to have a jockey on board who can just hold the horse’s head. Regardless of if I was on the favourite or a 100/1 shot, you go out and ride them with the same attitude.

It’s only around the second circuit you think about how to go about winning the race having survived the first. You have to decide whether you’re going to go for the win, or for the best possible place in which case you wait and don’t commit before then trying to finish strong when the others tire.

I think the longer the race goes on, the more patience the jockey needs and they need to use their heads. You see a lot of jockeys getting ahead of themselves and kicking for home. You can’t do that in these long chases on soft ground, it’s a waiting game. You need to save enough petrol in the tank to get you home.

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